Environmental Issue & Sick Building Syndrome Blog

New Research Shows One in Four Americans Have Some Form of Chemical Sensitivit

March 31st, 2018 10:54 AM by Dan Howard

Imagine you are in one of those science fiction or horror shows where the people are being killed by a mysterious noxious gas. The contaminating gas is slowly and invisibly seeping from unknown sources. Your eyes are burning. Your muscles ache. Your head throbs with pain. With each passing day you are becoming sicker and sicker. Even sleeping is a struggle as your body aches for fresh air.  

For many people this is not a movie that will end in a couple of hours. Multiple Chemical Sensitivity patients are living that real-life nightmare.  The University of Melbourne has just reported its research in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. The study showed that one in four Americans report some form of chemical sensitivity. They concluded that “nearly half of that group could be medically diagnosed with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) suffering health problems from exposure to common chemical products and pollutants such as insect spray, pain, cleaning supplies, fragrances, and petrochemical fumes (VOC’s).” 

The study noted that “people with MCS are like human canaries. They react earlier and more severely to chemical pollutants, even at low levels.” 

We have learned that what we eat can affect our health. Too much fat? Too much sugar? Listeria on vegetables? E. Coli in meat? We know those can make us ill, very, very ill.

We eat a few times a day. We breathe ALL the time. Despite this we sometimes have trouble understanding that the chemical soup of fragrances and off-gassing products we create in the air can make some people ill. Yikes, holy odor Batman! How can all those fragrances in everything from household cleaners to new cars, furniture and carpeting and magazines delivered to our homes affect health?

We understand that some children can eat a single peanut and go into anaphylactic shock. Even though it is the same principle, some people do not understand or accept that individuals can react differently to certain shared chemical and biological exposures. It is often family members that do not understand that a spouse or child is reacting to environmental exposures.

Many MCS patients have spent years going to medical providers that fail to diagnose MCS as the cause of their health problems. The good new in this area is that many medical practitioners are now recognizing and treating this condition.

The next challenge for the MCS patient, their family and medical practitioners is identifying the type and location of the exposures that are making them ill. The objective is to avoid those contaminants, but you need to know what you are avoiding to avoid it.

We all know about Glade Air Fresheners. They are a great example of chemicals that can trigger a reaction in a patient. The description of the chemicals in the Material Safety Data Sheet on the Glade website starts that some of the chemicals in them include:    _1_alpha___e__2_beta___1__2_6_6_trimethylcyclohex_3_en_1_yl_but_2_en_1_one; 2,4-dimethyl-3-cyclohexene carboxaldehyde*; 2,6,10-trimethylundec-9-enal; 2,6-dimethyl-7-octen-2-ol; 2-phenoxyethyl isobutyrate; 2-t-butylcyclohexyl acetate; 3.alpha.,4,5,6,7,7.alpha.-hexahydro-4,7-methano-1h-indenyl propionate; 3-hexenol; 3-methyl-2-butenyl acetate; 4,4.alpha.,5,9.beta.-tetrahydroindeno(1,2-d)-1,3-dioxin; 4-methylanisole; 5-methyl-2-(2-methylpropyl)-1,3-dioxane; amyl cinnamal*; The list of chemicals goes on from this partial list.

Reasons That Homes, Schools, and Public Buildings Now Have Increased Environmental Contaminants

  • Products and materials of all kinds are packaged and sold with fragrances added.
  • Building products, furnishings and equipment are made of materials that off-gas chemicals including everything for carpet to cabinets to the plastics used for flexible ductwork
  • Buildings are built tighter. The old timers would say “the solution to pollution is dilution” HVAC systems and building energy saving systems reduces the introduction of outside air which reduces dilution of chemicals in a building

The bottom line is that there are now hundreds of thousands of exposures to chemicals in increasing tight buildings. Each of the exposures or combination of exposures can create a chemical overload which can be debilitating to sensitive individuals.  

Identifying Environmental Triggers

One of the least used, but valuable techniques for identifying environmental triggers is doing a diary of where people spend time, what activities they do, what foods they eat and how they feel. That information can help narrow the source of exposures. 

Functional Medicine or Holistic Medical Practitioners have new testing methods to diagnose MCS triggers. There are skin and blood tests that can help identify the patient’s biological reactions to exposures. There is also an evolution of the practices where correlations such as mold exposure and difficulty in recovering from Lyme Disease are being considered.

There are environmental inspectors that can identify sources of environmental hazards. This is far and beyond simply testing the air. The process is to review a property and based upon identified potential sources then test to determine the presence of contaminants. Specially trained professionals are familiar with conditions, products and materials that can be of risk to MCS patients.

Posted by Dan Howard on March 31st, 2018 10:54 AM



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